Guilty pleasure, p.21
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       Guilty Pleasure, p.21

         Part #11 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
Page 21


  Ayid and Aman should have been dead after the explosion that had been set off in the terrorist headquarters in Riyadh so many years ago, and the initial report had stated no survivors. Abram and Khalid had relaxed their guard for no more than hours. Just a few short hours, but long enough for Abram's father, Azir, to demand that Abram rush to Riyadh to find out what was going on. Just long enough for the brothers to contact their followers in the region and have Khalid kidnapped and held.

  He rubbed his hand over his face and moved away from the window. Just a few hours. It had been enough to allow the brothers to make their way back to the palace and torture and kill the woman Khalid and Abram secretly had been sharing. The woman Abram had claimed as his own, the wife he had cherished.

  Lessa had paid with an agonizing death for Khalid's part in the destruction of that terrorist cell. Simply because Ayid had somehow learned of the part Khalid had played in the attack against the terrorist cell's headquarters in Riyadh.

  After Khalid had left Saudi Arabia, Abram had returned to being the son Azir had demanded. It was the only way to keep Khalid safe, he had claimed. Though Khalid knew Abram was simply biding his time, waiting until he could destroy his younger brothers without the threat of Khalid paying in some way for his crimes.

  It hadn't worked, though. Khalid had never been safe, and now Marty was in danger as well.

  She had worked her way into his desires, then into his heart. She was in danger because of him. He could feel it. The attempted drive-by shooting had been a clear message. Ayid and Aman were tired of waiting for their vengeance. For whatever reason, they were moving now.

  And he couldn't still the fear that no matter her training and her abilities, he would still lose her.

  His Marty was determined to always be the risk taker. At least, in some areas. Unfortunately, having her risk her life didn't sit well with his possessive male tendencies.

  The sound of the door opening behind him caused him to stop his musings, and he turned from the window. He watched as Joe and Zach entered the room, glancing at him with concerned expressions.

  "Khalid, you're looking tired. " Joseph wasn't one to mince words when the situation warranted it.

  "I have no idea what would cause such a thing," he answered, with subtle sarcasm. "Perhaps it's the late nights I'm keeping. "

  Nights spent trying to track the information that had come in that Ayid and Aman were tired of Khalid's interference in their terrorist activities over the years. That, added to the deaths of their wives, had exhausted their patience.

  Zach moved to the bar and began pouring drinks. He hadn't spoken yet, but Khalid had a feeling that once he began, they would all need them.

  "Have a seat. " Joseph waved to the seating area in front of the cold fireplace.

  "The news is this bad?" Khalid took a chair across from Joseph as Zach moved to him and handed him the straight whiskey that he had poured.

  The situation must be grave indeed. The meeting the two men had asked for had surprised Khalid, especially when they requested that Marty not be made aware that they were arriving.

  "The reports coming in are inconclusive so far," Joe stated. Zach took a seat on the short couch facing the fire. "Ayid and Aman crossed the border into Iraq last night. There are murmurs that they've sent someone to the area, but not against you. A single terrorist, rather than a cell sent to strike against a strategic target. "

  Khalid sipped the whiskey.

  "Sheikh Azir Mustafa contacted the consulate when news of the attack on Marty was first reported and your name was mentioned as having arrived at the scene of the attack. He's demanding that they provide proof of your well-being. "

  Khalid snorted at such an idea. Trust the old bastard to use the attack to stage a display of fatherly affection that didn't exist. If the old man gave a damn about his eldest and youngest children, then the two sons who had struck against them would be dead now, not benefiting from their father's benevolence.

  "Tell him to go fuck himself," he muttered, knowing his father had only demanded the proof because of his fears that Ayid and Aman was coming after Khalid. Should the Saudi king learn, for a fact, that Azir's sons were terrorists, then Mustafa would lose all hold they had on the region that they ruled.

  "The ambassador thought perhaps a politely worded assurance of your health was more in order, all things considered at the moment," Zach retorted, his expression deadpan. "It seemed to require much less effort, and less bureaucratic red tape. "

  Khalid glared back at him.

  "It's been years since there's been even a hint that they're still targeting you, Khalid," Zach pointed out. "Just because Shayne has heard rumors that they're prepared to move now, after the D. C. operation, doesn't mean you're more important to them than whatever strategic target they've chosen. We have time to figure this out. "

  "Think what you will. I know my half brothers. The attempt on Marty's life was ordered by them. I can feel it. Whoever your lone terrorist is, whatever his agenda--trust me, I'm high on his list of priorities, and Marty would be the perfect target to make me suffer before they came after me. " Rising from his chair, Khalid moved to the bar to refresh his drink.

  "If your suspicions are correct, had you stayed away from her as you were asked, then Marty wouldn't be involved in this. " Zach's tone was hard and accusing.

  Khalid stilled himself before lifting the decanter and refilling his glass. Forcing back the fury beating at him was nearly impossible. Zach was a shackle around his ankle at times where Marty was concerned. It was too bad that that shackle hadn't been enough to keep him from her.

  "It's too late to fill the day with accusations. " Khalid turned back to the two men. "I'll deal with my brothers as well as any other threat against Marty, in my own way. "

  Joe's brows lifted mockingly. "Really? And you've been waiting for what to take care of the situation with your brothers? Your funeral?"

  Khalid leveled a dark, brooding look at the senator.

  "I preferred to stop short of murder," he informed the other man. "I had hoped I could arrange their deaths through the operations we've fouled for them. "

  "Commendable," Zach drawled, with a hint of sarcasm. "But our attention is now split, which is something we can't afford at the moment. Shayne is attempting to locate the terrorist your brothers sent to Alexandria or D. C. Meanwhile, as I understand it, you've also chosen him as your third. Tell me, Khalid, how is he supposed to help protect her if he isn't here to do his job?"

  Censure filled Zach's voice now, drawing a darker frown to Khalid's face.

  "He will be here when he's needed," he assured the other man. "Should my suspicions prove correct, then Shayne will be available when he's needed. This is all that matters. "

  So far Khalid and Shayne together had managed to keep Marty distracted and off the subject of the truths Khalid knew he could not hold back from her for long. That wouldn't last much longer, Khalid guessed. He doubted it was working now. It wouldn't surprise him in the least to learn that Marty was merely biding her time with information she was learning on her own.

  "You're going to fucking pull her in on this," Zach said furiously, as he sat forward in his chair to glare back at Khalid. "Aren't you? You've told her just enough of the truth to arouse her curiosity. "

  Khalid sipped his drink before answering.

  "She will never thank any of us for attempting to protect her," he stated. "She has already been contacted by a private security firm. I know she's considering the move. Once she leaves your agency and joins that firm, she will no longer be under your control or your protection. Shayne is our only hope to ensure that she is always watched over as she fulfills the dreams she has. Not the ones you have. "

  Joe and Zach now stared back at him in shock.

  "Shayne's CIA. He won't leave the agency. " Zach shook his head doubtfully.

  "Once my half brothers
are dealt with, Shayne will be leaving the agency," Khalid informed them. "Should Marty decide to accept the position offered to her then he will be there as well. "

  "Son of a bitch. " Zach came out of his chair furiously as he glared back at Joe. "You're in on this? We agreed that after she came back from her vacation to convince him to stay with the bureau. That was the plan. "

  Joe breathed out heavily as he stared back at Zach. "She's not going to stay, Zach. "

  Zach turned to his friend.

  "Deerfield won't be there," Zach snapped, furiously. "I'm making sure of it. "

  Joe shook his head slowly. "She knows you're protecting her there. Holding her back. Marty knows she doesn't get the assignments she wants because you're pulling strings. Be thankful she's taking herself out of that equation rather than turning her back on us. "

  "She won't turn her back--"

  "She will decide for herself what she wishes," Khalid broke in firmly. "She's an adult. "

  "And you're going to get her fucking killed," Zach yelled back at him. "Why the hell do you think I warned you away from her? I knew you'd do this. You and your damned determination that everyone has a fucking choice. That's bullshit, Khalid. Her choice will get her killed. "

  Khalid stared back at him, seeing a father's fear and rage, and he couldn't blame him for them. Marty was the child he had never had himself, for whatever reason. She was his daughter, and she would always be the little girl he had watched over.

  It was hard for Zach to step back and risk his own soul, as he was being forced to do. Losing her could break him, no matter how it happened.

  "Shayne will watch out for her while I cannot," Khalid stated. "This was the reason I chose him as a third. "

  "I can't believe you'd make this decision without consulting us. " Zach stalked to the other side of the room, his arms crossing over his chest in a gesture of frustrated anger.

  "Why would I consult you?" Khalid asked, his tone mocking. "You have warned me from her for years. Why would I think you would agree with any decision I made in regards to her?"

  "Can you believe this bastard?" Zach turned to Joe in amazement. "He thinks he's God. "

  "Or the man she loves. " Joe got to his feet as he glanced between Khalid and Zach. "I agree with him. Marty's going to take herself out of the bounds where we can protect her. In this way at least someone will be watching over her. "

  "Have you discussed this with Virginia?" Zach asked.

  Joe's brow arched. "Did I discuss it with you? You and Virginia seem to forget that she's my daughter as well. And she's not stupid. She knows what's going on at the bureau; she knows why you allowed her to be stuck watching Khalid for the past two years. And, trust me, she already suspects that you warned Khalid away from her. She's not going to be happy with any of us if this continues, Zach, because she's growing damned tired of the fact that all you're concerned with is keeping her out of the line of fire. "

  "She'll be safe," Zach argued furiously. "There's no chance of her getting killed. "

  Joe laughed. "That's what we said about Virginia when we tried to maneuver her off a certain case during her first years as a prosecutor," Joe reminded him. "We nearly lost her then. I won't take that chance with my daughter. "

  Zach grimaced before casting Khalid a hard sneer. "I blame you for this. "

  Khalid shrugged. He really didn't care who Zach blamed as long as Marty didn't throw blame his way.

  "This meeting is over, gentlemen," Khalid informed them. "Marty will be returning soon from her luncheon with her friends, and I'd prefer she not catch us in this little secret meeting. Her anger isn't something I wish to deal with at present. "
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